By Veronica Carolan
No longer a person of routine –
(ill-disciplined? I work to larger frame) –
I do what needs to be done
I deliver on time, J.I.T.
But Just in Time doesn’t work
when others depend on planning,
needing to know in advance, dovetailing,
needing the neat assurance of black and white.
The shelves were emptied just in time
by people panicking, and just too late
for those who live by just in time.
Empty larders do not fill the hungers of today.
People used to have full shelves
of home production, seasons’ discipline,
pickled, salted, bottled and dried,
provisioning for times of dearth to come.
Those were days of isolation
from the larger world, the village shop the bounds
dictating what one had or went without.
Days of making, making do and making last.
We live in isolation now, in lockdown
made bearable for some by comfort of routine,
its well-worn bounds like an old armchair
moulded to one’s shape and leanings.
Life without its routine work and routine breaks
expands into a haze of holiday – heaven for some
and hell for those whose nerves are stretched to breaking point,
with no escape from what normality contains.
From its depths the human heart brings hope.
We trawl the darkest shelves of past provisioning
to find forbearance, understanding, some small grain of locked-down love –
and find a single cruse of oil, enough for all.
My name is Veronica Carolan and I retired to Whitby a year ago. Having been a busy parish priest, I started writing poetry again last year. This poem was written in April, in the middle of lockdown.
When I retired last autumn, I rejoined the Whitby Poetry Group. During lockdown, Instead of meeting in one another’s homes, we continued via email, each of us submitting fortnightly a guest poem and an original poem for our constructive criticism.
The restrictions of lockdown actually unlocked a streak of creativity for me, and I found myself writing intermittently several poems in a short space of time. This one was written in April.
Being a ‘just in time’ person by nature, I found there were no loo rolls left in our local supermarket. (I sent away for some, which I received 6 weeks later, from China!) This set me reflecting on the different ways people respond to necessity, and how much routine plays a part in helping structure the long days in isolation.